The last time we had a turn around like this was when NVIDIA launched the GeForce FX. NVIDIA gave us a weekend, Superbowl Weekend to be exact, to review its latest GPU back in 2003. History was bound to repeat itself, and this time it was AMD keeping us occupied all weekend.

We got a call earlier in the week asking if we'd be able to turn around a review of AMD's Barcelona processor for Monday if we received hardware on Saturday. Naturally we didn't decline, and as we were secretly working on a Barcelona preview already, AMD's timing was impeccable.

What we've been waiting for

AMD shipped us a pair of 2U servers a day early, we actually got them on Friday but being in Denver at CEDIA we couldn't begin testing until Saturday. Luckily, Johan had Barcelona in Europe for over a week by this point and was already hard at work on server benchmarks. I augmented Johan's numbers with some additional results on these servers, but I had other plans in mind for the Barcelona system that AMD was sending me.

We went from no Barcelona, to fist-fulls of Barcelona in one weekend

You see, we've known for a while that Barcelona was going to do well for AMD on the server side. AMD is far more competitive there than in the desktop market, mostly thanks to its Direct Connect architecture, something Intel won't be able to duplicate until the end of 2008 with Nehalem. Barcelona will improve clock-for-clock performance over Opteron and is a drop in replacement for Socket-1207 servers with nothing more than a BIOS update; the Enterprise world couldn't be happier.

Things are different on the desktop; AMD hasn't been competitive since the launch of Core 2 in the Summer of 2006 and we're very worried that even after Phenom's late-year launch, the market still won't be competitive. While that's great for consumers today, the concern is that a non-competive AMD will bring about a more complacent Intel, which we do not want. We want the hungry Intel that we've enjoyed for the past year, we want ridiculous performance and aggressive pricing, and we won't get that without an AMD that can fight.

But AMD won't tell us anything about how Phenom will perform, other than that it will be competitive with Conroe/Kentsfield. So the goal here today is to get an idea of exactly how much faster Barcelona (the same core that'll be in Phenom X4) will be compared to the Athlon 64 X2.

We'll have more Barcelona server content coming as we spend more time with the system, but be sure to check out Johan's coverage to get a good idea of how Barcelona will compete in its intended market. If you're not familiar with Barcelona/Phenom architecture, or if you're confused as to exactly what Phenom is here's some required reading before proceeding.

2.0GHz Today, 2.5GHz Tomorrow


View All Comments

  • Regs - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Sorry, I did not mean to sound like a Dick Jack.

    The L3 cache is specifically designed with data sharing in mind. Which means all data unshared is evicted from the cache back into main memory. The L3 is also shared between four different cores and the access to the L3 must be arbitrated between them. This means the latency of the L3 actually depends on the core frequencies.

    Pre-fetches are made by the core and stored in the L1D cache of the Barc. They used to be stored in the L2 on the K8. So if the pre-fetch misses, it will look for information in the L2 and not the L3.
  • xenon74 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    So if I understand this correctly:

    1.) You were trying to overclock registered DDR2 memory to give us a bit more even comparison between Athlon X2 and Phenom X4 using Opteron Barcelona QC and old Opteron DC.
    2.) OCing reg.DDR2 memory was unsuccessful which resulted that AMD sever stopped POSTing.

    3.) In two hours you come up with this "Phenom preview".

  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Not exactly :) The server not POSTing had nothing to do with trying to run faster DDR2 memory in the system, all of the benchmarking for the Phenom preview was done before the board stopped POSTing, I was simply trying to add more benchmarks to Johan's article when it ceased operation. Apparently others have been having issues with these motherboards and it appears that a new rev of the board may correct the problems.

    Take care,
  • Reynod - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Great first article Anand.

    As usual exceptionally well written and you avoided all of the fanboi nonsense.

    I'd like more detailed stuff when you get the chance please?

    Cheers :)
  • Regs - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I guess only more clock speed, a better revision of the processor, and maybe a AM2-AM3 mobo will be a bit better for the Phenom?

    I wasn't expecting a whole lot out of AMD's barc. Though I do wonder what they have planned to help it for the retail desktop version. Like you said it just makes it more difficult to price it unless it can compete better.
  • Locutus465 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    I've been waiting to see what AMD would do as a frist step on the comeback trail... This is a good opening salvo... True it's not going to be a Core 2 killer, but coupled with future technologies this is a great start! I hope they can afford to continue keeping pricing low while producing newer/better chips... Reply
  • Etern205 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Hope this preview about Barcelona is as honest article where it tells
    the consumer the truth as to how well this cpu performs.
    Anandtech is all about honesty right?
    If that is true (which it always is), then this article better not be one
    of those that got approved by AMD before it was pubished!">
  • Locutus465 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Not sure why you're questioning anand's honesty, they've always been fair and accurate as far as I can see. And frankly, this artical fits with everything that's been said thus far about the new chip, it'll be much more competitive, but not to the point of winning the battle for AMD. Reply
  • retrospooty - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Agreed AT has always been fair and unbiased with reviews, that is why it is so popular.

    Even if there was an error in the test methodology, and someone points it out, they will update the article with the correction.
  • Etern205 - Monday, September 10, 2007 - link

    Anandtech is a great site and their article is always gives the
    best info, which is why when I'm about to get a new part like a cpu, or video card, I'll
    come to this site for reviews. And 100% of the time the results are always correct.

    But as for this "Barcelona"... mmm I don't know
    not just this site but to all the other sites as a whole.


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